Were You There?

by Ron DiCianni and Neil WilsonNot only is this book a collection of outstanding paintings, but each painting is accompanied by a short story designed to immerse the reader into the artwork and the events that inspired it. The stories are written from a first person point of view, so you can’t help but let your imagination run a little bit. The artwork is simply stunning, and the stories are rich and vibrant. It’s kinda hard to rate a book like this because I find myself thinking, “Well, I didn’t really learn anything,” but that’s not the point. The paintings and stories are a way for us to escape from our world and worries for a bit and hopefully come back feeling refreshed and yet curious. The book does just that, so if you’re looking for a break, it’s a great and easy read.

I Kissed Dating Goodbye

by Joshua HarrisI had heard several mixed reviews of this book for quite some time, so I decided to pick it up and see for myself what the author had to say. He accurately sizes up the dating scene (particularly among Christians) and suggests that perhaps there is a better way –a way with less heartache. His proposal is that we shouldn’t date until we’re ready for marriage. I do believe there is some truth in that, but I would suggest that to a certain degree we are never “ready.” I think Joshua Harris is an idealist. Idealists really do have a solution for our world problems; however, they require that everybody be on the same page, with the same outlook and perspective. That will never happen this side of eternity. I believe he has good intentions, but I don’t think his idea(l)s will work in our fallen world.

Every Man’s Battle

by Stephen Arterburn and Fred StoekerMy main frustration is that this book claims to be for “every” man. However, I cannot recommend it to any single Christian male. It is written by married men, for married men, and the authors fail to emphasize that. Honestly I believe this book can do more harm than good for single guys. I came away with more doubts and questions than answers. To be fair, there is now Every Single Man’s Battle written by one of the same authors after he went through a divorce; I believe that further emphasizes my point that the authors initially failed to recognize that there is a different sexual struggle between married men and us single fellas. Here’s my point: they iterate the fact that just because you get married you are not free from sexual temptation. I believe that. However, they fail to mention that once you get married, the rules change. The battle takes on a different form. If you’re married, it’s probably a good read. If you’re single, check out the other book.

Scribbling in the Sand

by Michael CardThe subtitle of this book “Christ and Creativity” simultaneously grabbed me and resonated deeply within me. “At last!” I thought, “someone is putting together the fact that God is a creative being and that we should look to Him for creativity.” Unfortunately, the inspiration didn’t carry through beyond the cover. The premise of the book is that we are created in the image of our Creator God, but it makes one feeble attempt after another at explaining how to embrace that and live it out in our daily lives. The book is filled with weak analogies of how Biblical events were intrinsically linked to creativity. Honestly, this is the sort of thinking that has bound Christians to mediocre work for far too long. I was sorely disappointed. (I struggle with giving this a mere 1 foot because I firmly believe in “criticizing by creating,” but I can’t, in good conscience, recommend it just because it claims the name of Jesus. If we have to encourage other Christians to support something, then perhaps it’s not worth supporting in the first place…)

For Men Only

by Shaunti and Jeff FeldhahnThis is the much anticipated companion book to For Women Only. It follows the same layout by revealing seven common misunderstandings men have about women, and then it spells it out in a language us men can wrap our minds around. I’m not sure if men will ever really get women, but this book significantly narrows the gap in our understanding. There are a couple points that I might argue are out of balance, but that does not negate a man’s responsibility to treat women the way God commands us to. I suggest that women read this book as well. After talking about a few points in this book with my sister she said, “Oh, that makes so much sense! I want to read that if for no other reason than to learn something about myself.” I don’t have much else to add. Read the book. Let it soak in and manifest itself in the way you treat the women in your life.

The Smell of Sin

by Don EvertsAs you browse the “Christian Living” aisles of most bookstores you don’t find too many books about sin. There are countless books about living the life of your dreams and how God wants to bless us, but this book takes a refreshing yet disturbing look at sin. It’s a great reminder for those of us who have grown comfortable in our faith; without an understanding of our need for a savior we don’t fully appreciate what He has done for us. It helps give us a clearer picture of how God views sin, but it doesn’t lose sight of the fact that Jesus came that we might have life. It’s a short book and well worth your time to read it.

Blue Like Jazz

by Donald MillerIt seemed that no matter where I turned, I kept hearing about this book. I finally bought it myself to see what all the chatting was about. Somewhere around the middle of the book I found myself wondering, “Is this book popular because people like it, or do people like it because it’s popular?” Maybe my expectations were too high, but I honestly don’t remember having (m)any expectations going into it –mostly just curious. It’s a refreshingly honest read from an imperfect author (at least, one who actually admits it) and there were three or four points that really grabbed me, but for the most part it felt like a lighthearted read about Christian Spirituality. Even though this one didn’t rock my world, per se, I think we need more books like this –honest, real, imperfect. After all, we’re still a work in progress.

For Women Only

by Shaunti FeldhahnMy curiosity got the best of me, and I’m proud to admit it. Every woman needs to read this book, and it’s not a half bad read for the rest of us guys either. In short, it points out seven key areas that women think they know about men, and then it goes on to explain how things really work in the male world. It’s an eye opener, for sure. Admittedly I was a bit skeptical when I noticed that it was written by a woman –“Seriously, what does she know about being a guy!?” I thought. However, skeptics can rest assured that everything she writes is based on hundreds of survey responses from men, and every guy I know who has read it ends up saying the same thing, “Yep. She pretty much nailed it.” Ladies, do yourself (and your boyfriend/husband/relationships) a favor and read this book. Gentlemen, let’s start being gentlemen and pick up the companion book for dudes. Highly recommended!

Dinner with a Perfect Stranger

by David GregoryConceptually, this book piqued my curiosity. It’s a fictitious story about a guy who gets an invitation to have dinner with Jesus. “Wow!” I thought, “Wouldn’t that make for an awesome conversation,” and then my mind went on to fill the pages of the book with Jesus speaking pointed truths into this guy’s life and how it relates to me. After having built up these expectations I began to read the book only to discover that it went off in a different direction than I had hoped. I realize that my interpretation of this book is based on the fact that it didn’t meet my expectations, but having finished it, I came away feeling like it would be better described as a gospel tract –better suited for skeptics of Christianity who perhaps have never considered a “religion” centered around a relationship with Christ. All in all, it’s a decent read. You can read it in one sitting –heck, you could read any book in one sitting if you can sit that long =) It’s not a book you read for encouragement or inspiration as much as it is one you would read for a short escape.

Captivating

by John and Stasi EldredgeEssentially this book was written as as a sort of Wild at Heart for women. As such, it follows a similar patterns and carries the same themes, only from the perspective of a woman. Based on the women I’ve talked to, they have a similar reaction to this book that we men have toward Wild at Heart –it resonates and inspires. It alludes to a life of hopes and dreams and suggests that it can be a life lived even in today’s world. Coming from my male perspective, the “woman of God” as described in this book is not altogether different from the sort of woman I hope to marry someday. I think John and Stasi Eldredge are on to something with these books.